Advances in reproductive medicine

New Medical Techniques

The world's first IVF baby was born in 1978 as the result of research by Bob Edwards and Patrick Steptoe at the University of Cambridge. Since then, over 4 million IVF babies have been born worldwide and advances in medical techniques have pushed success rates to over 50% per treatment cycle for many women.

Improved grading of embryos

With the introduction of the HFEA policy of elective single embryo transfer (eSet) in a bid to reduce multiple birth pregnancies, monitoring of embryo quality through appearance, speed of growth and cell number is vital. Improved embryo selection is paramount at The LWC and this is reflected in our success rates.

Strides are being made in the screening of embryos for chromosomal abnormalities. The LWC is engaged in the UK's first clinical trial of a revolutionary method, comparative genomic hybridization (CGH), for detecting chromosomal defects in embryos. Pilot studies suggest that significant improvements in outcome are possible. New evidence indicates that in certain cases implantation results improve by transferring blastocysts (five-day-old embryos) rather than two- or three-day-old embryos. The LWC is continuing research on this front.

Better freezing methods

Transferring fewer embryos means that more are available for freezing. Improving freezing techniques is therefore increasingly important. The latest advancement - vitrification - reduces cells to a glass-like state in just a few seconds. Temperature reduction is so fast that no ice crystals form and therefore no water damage occurs during thawing. Vitrification is being trialed on eggs and looks likely to revolutionalise success rates from frozen gametes and embryos.

IVF Lite: a milder approach to IVF

Multiple pregnancies in IVF pose a risk to both mother and child. A 'milder' approach to treatment is now regarded as the best way to reduce the chance of multiple pregnancies and minimise stress to the patient. At the forefront of developments, The LWC has introduced IVF Lite. This approach includes low-dose ovarian stimulation, shorter treatment time, single (or sometimes double) embryo transfer, and embryo freezing.